The Conflict of the Ages
The conflict between God and Lucifer began back in eternity when Lucifer sinned against God by declaring in his heart that he would be like the Most High and ascend equal to God. “How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning...Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, to the lowest depths of the pit” (Isaiah 14:12-15).
Satan’s iniquity caused God to cast this once anointed cherub out as a profane thing with His decree that the rebellious angel would be judged and destroyed at a future time and “shall be no more forever” (Ezekiel 28:12-19). However, until that final judgment, Lucifer, who is Satan and the devil, is permitted to exist as a participant in God’s eternal plan of redemption as a powerful enemy who currently roams the earth seeking to devour all that is Gods.
It began in Eden. After Satan successfully tempted man to sin against God, God revealed His intention, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel” (Genesis 3:15). It was a Declaration of War that we know now explains the hatred of Lucifer and the love of God in Jesus Christ. Yes, Satan would bruise the heel of Jesus at Calvary, but in that bruising Christ would defeat and destroy him.
What follows are events recorded in Scripture that reveal attacks devised by the devil against man and God in order to prevent Him from accomplishing all His work and purposes through the “Seed”, Messiah Jesus Christ the Lord, and thereby to thwart his own impending judgment of annihilation.
Satan’s first attempt was levied against the human race with the murder of Abel by his brother Cain (Genesis 4); thereby to exterminate the one whom God respected and cause Him to curse the other. And though Abel was murdered and his brother Cain was cursed, God “appointed another seed” to replace Abel with a son born to Adam and Eve named Seth (4:25). So Satan’s attempt failed.
Satan's next approach was to contaminate the human bloodline so completely through ungodly intermarriage that it would preclude the possibility of a righteous seed being born. But a member of the line of Seth named Noah found grace in the sight of the Lord and was “perfect in his generations” thereby allowing God to drown that entire race of people in the flood except for Noah and his family (Genesis 6-7). Following the flood, the earth was repopulated by Noah’s three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. So Satan’s attempt failed and God’s Sovereign plan of redemption continued with the eight survivors who departed the ark (9:1).
Over about the next three hundred and fifty years as the population grew, however, the whole world plunged into abysmal idolatry. So God called Abraham, a descendent of Shem, to leave his country and father’s house and to depart “to a land I will show you” and therein promising to make him a great nation and a great name of blessing to the entire earth (Genesis 12:1-3).
In obedience, Abraham did depart and eventually had two sons; Ishmael and Isaac. But Ishmael was fathered with a slave woman and was not the son whose lineage would institute the nation promised by God. Whereas the other son, Isaac, was fathered with Abraham’s wife Sarah and indeed was the son of promise.
Isaac in turn had a son, Jacob. And Jacob in turn had twelve sons that became twelve tribes. And these descendants of Abraham became the covenant nation and people promised to the patriarch. They became Israel. So Satan focused his attack on the people of Israel and their seed.
In a ruthless move to exterminate Israel all at once, he attempted to kill all their newborn male children during their captivity in Egypt. But God preserved the people of Israel. One little newborn wasn't slaughtered, Moses (Exodus 1-2). And it was Moses who came to be the man that led Israel out of bondage, delivered God’s Holy Law, and directed them on the miraculous journey to their promised land (Exodus 13-14). Satan's attempt failed.
Some four hundred years later, once Israel was in their land established as a nation, God called out David with a promise to establish David's line and kingdom forever (2 Samuel 7:8-16). David was a descendent of Jacob’s son Judah, and thus of the tribe of Judah. Therefore Satan set out to break the line of David understanding full well that the Messiah would come from the kingly-line of David of the tribe of Judah.
The events that occur next indicate the power of God to prevent Satan’s attempt even when it all came down to just one male remaining in David’s messianic line. It begins with wicked King Jehoram, the sixth in the line of David to reign over Judah about one hundred and twenty five years following King David’s reign.
After Jehoram became king he killed all his brothers (2 Chronicles 21:4), leaving him as the one individual left; and though he was wicked “Yet the Lord would not destroy the house of David” (21:6-7). Jehoram died eight years later, but he had sons.
But then the Arabians came and killed all the sons of Jehoram except for the youngest son, Ahaziah; thus again reducing the messianic line to one individual. Ahaziah reigned as the king of Judah for one year (2 Chronicles 22:1-2) and was killed (22:9), but not before he had sons.
But when Athaliah, the mother of Ahaziah, saw that her son was dead “she arose and destroyed all the royal heirs of the house of Judah” (22:10). This woman was the tool of Satan to destroy the total royal seed by murdering all the sons of the dead king Ahaziah. But she missed one son, Joash.
King Ahaziah’s sister, Jehoshabeath, snuck her infant nephew off and hid him for six years while his terrible vile grandmother Athaliah reigned over Israel (22:11-12).
Then in the seventh year, the priest Jehoiada incited a spiritual awakening amongst the priests and chief fathers of Israel. “Behold, the king’s son shall reign, as the Lord said of the sons of David”. Then they came to Jerusalem, killed Athaliah, and set the seven year old Joash on the throne of the kingdom (2 Chronicles 23). And King Joash reigned forty years in Jerusalem, and he had sons. So Satan’s attempt failed and the royal line, despite having been reduced to just one rightful heir to the throne of David on three separate occasions, remained unbroken and thus, the lineage from which the True King and Savior would come continued according to God’s Sovereign plan.
Some two hundred and sixty years later, Israel, who no longer was permitted a king after falling to Babylon about a hundred years earlier, became subject to the kings of Persia. And it was during this rule that Satan yet again attempted to cut off the messianic line by annihilating the whole of Israel. It’s recorded for us in the Book of Esther. Haman, a captain of the princes of Persia, stirred by rage, envy and a vengeful spirit, maliciously requested that the king order a decree to eliminate all Jews (Esther 3:8-9). But due to a series of fateful occurrences and the courage of Queen Esther and the counsel of her wise cousin Mordecai (who were Jews), the pagan king instead hung evil Haman (7:10) and spared the Jews from wholesale slaughter. So God continued to preserve His people and the lineage of the promised Messiah in spite of Satan’s most vile and resolute attempts to oppose it.
Then Satan, having failed to eliminate the human race or to annihilate the Jews or to cut-off the royal messianic line of King David to prevent the birth, the devil attempted to kill the Child Jesus, the Messiah Himself. “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord”, the angels proclaimed (Luke 2:11).
As a result, Herod, the Roman-appointed king of Judea, issued a decree to “put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all of its districts, from two years old and under” However, earlier in a dream an angel appeared to Joseph and instructed him to take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt and to remain there until Herod was dead (Matthew 2:13-16; 19-21). So Satan’s attempt failed, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us”.
Satan’s next assault took place thirty years later in what might be the most crucial confrontation in all of Scripture. The devil approached the incarnate Son of God Himself and tempted Him. What makes this conflict significant, however, is not merely that Christ faced temptation, for He “was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). He was tempted as a child, tempted as a teenager, and tempted as an adult the way everybody's tempted. What makes this conflict crucial is that His work of redemption as Savior of the world, the Son of God, the Messiah rests upon the outcome.
At His baptism forty days earlier, Jesus was proclaimed “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), and then was anointed by the Holy Spirit and by the words of the Father, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:16-17). In other words, the deity and the worthiness of Jesus to bear the title of Messiah and the Savior of the world were affirmed and His authority to complete the Father’s work and purposes imparted. But now it must be proven that He is adequate to conquer sin and Satan himself. Because if He is defeated by Satan, then there is no salvation and we are all damned.
So “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (Matthew 4:1). And after forty days of fasting the devil came to Him and tempted Him with three proposals devised to prove Him unrighteous and therefore unworthy to take away the sins of the world. But Jesus did not falter. He demonstrated His power over Satan and His power over sin by resisting each temptation. And following that triumph Jesus returned from the wilderness and began His ministry.
Satan, on the other hand, departed from the wilderness “until an opportune time” (Luke 4:13). That is, the devil wasn’t about to give up looking for opportunities to overthrow Jesus. Therefore he continued to brutally attack Him without ceasing throughout the entire three years that He ministered on this earth.
The Jewish rulers tried to throw Him off a cliff (Luke 4:29), and twice wanted to stone Him (John 8:59; 10:31). We also know that Satan influenced Peter to try to talk Jesus out of going to the cross because our Lord looked directly at Peter and said, “Get thee behind me Satan…” (Matthew 16:22-23).
But in the same manner that Satan failed to prevent the birth of Christ and to tempt Him to be unrighteous, he also failed to conquer or master Him during His public ministry. The Son of God did not waver. He did not sin. He did not succumb to any trial or threat He ever encountered.
At God’s appointed time, however, Christ, the only acceptable sacrifice that can be offered to God for the cleansing of sins, “offered Himself without blemish to God” (Hebrews 9:14). When the time came, Jesus allowed Satan to crucify Him.
And from the devil’s viewpoint nailing Jesus to a cross had to appear like the perfect final solution. He would destroy the “Seed” by murdering Christ, and at the same time knew that God must curse Him in crucifixion (Deuteronomy 21:23).
But this proved to be Satan’s undoing because he failed to see the true intention of God. It was the will of God that Christ be crucified (John 18:32) and the purposes of the Father for Jesus to be made a curse (Galatians 3:13). And had Satan known, he "would not have crucified the Lord of glory" (1 Corinthians 2:7-8). “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:43).
When Jesus Christ arose from the grave three days later the glorious triumph of God over the works of the devil became one of public record. “Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it” (Colossians 2:15).
So the Child was born and prevailed. The Lord Jesus, the Lamb who is God’s Holy atonement for the sins of the world, rose from the dead and subsequently was caught up to sit at the right hand of God until the appointed time for Him to return in unprecedented majesty and glory as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords against whom neither man nor kingdom can stand.
Today, Satan is focused on that yet-future Second Coming of Jesus Christ and the man he will use in his opportunity to prevent it. Scripture tells us that over a seven-year period prior to the return of our Lord that God will permit Satan to empower a man to rule over a world government of evil that kills Jews, slaughters believers, and then gathers a military to make war against the Lord and His heavenly armies.
The result will be utter devastation for Satan. His man, the antichrist, along with the false prophet, will be cast alive into the lake of fire; his opposing military killed and fed to the birds; Satan himself will be cast into the bottomless pit where he will remain bound for a thousand years; and Christ will establish His kingdom of righteousness and reign on earth for one thousand years (Revelation 6-20:6).
After one thousand years, however, Satan will be given one final opportunity to usurp the Son of God. He will be released from the bottomless pit and able to deceive multitudes throughout the world to surround Jerusalem to battle. But “fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them” (Revelation 20:7-9). Finally after ages of grace and patience and mercy, God’s long-suffering comes to an end.
The rebellious roaring lion is overcome by the righteous Lion of the tribe of Judah. The One with the bruised heel crushes the serpent's head. Satan is cast into the lake of fire, the fallen angels are cast into the lake of fire, Death and Hades are cast into the lake of fire, and anyone not found written in the Book of Life is cast into the lake of fire (20:10-15). God has prevailed. The conflict of the ages is over.
This age will be consummated and all things made new. God the Son will deliver the kingdom to God the Father "that God may be all in all”. The redeemed will be delivered and enjoined unto Him, and He will be with us, and upon us, and in us, forever.